15 Sustainable Shoe Brands For An Ethical Footprint
The Good Trade editors endorse products we’ve personally researched, tested, and genuinely love. Learn more about our methodology and business model here.
Unfortunately, shoe production is not exempt from the sweatshop labor and hazardous production processes involved in fashion manufacturing. But as consumers, we have the power to use our voices and speak up. Through our purchases, we can make a positive difference for the people that make our shoes, and we can shop at brands that ensure their workers have fair wages and environmentally safe working conditions.
In our search for fair trade shoes, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite sustainable footwear brands. These companies produce fairly made shoes that range in function, style, and price. From hiking and running to work or a night out on the town, these shoe brands make it easier to fill your closet with high-quality footwear for every occasion (just don’t forget sustainable shoe insoles for maximum comfort).
Also, if you’re looking for leather shoe alternatives, check out this guide for a list of our favorite vegan and cruelty-free shoes.
Best For | Machine-washable sneakers
Price Range | $40–$155
Allbirds started with one simple mission: to make shoes in a better way, using natural materials. The brand’s shoes are made from sustainable materials, like FSC-certified Tencel lyocell and Merino wool—the latter of which ensures environmental and animal-friendly practices. The woven Tree Dasher ranks high on our list of favorite shoes for all-day, everyday wear, and love that the brand is expanding its lineup into casual sneakers and flats too. The Wool Runner fluffs are next on our list—they’re so cute and cozy for winter. We honestly can’t get enough of this brand (read our Allbirds review) and apparently neither can you— Allbirds was named best shoe in our 2022 reader survey!
Best For | Special occasion shoes & sandals
Price Range | $98–$548
Behind every trend is a Reformation original—at least it feels that way! Ref’s shoes are always in style, and stay chic well into the next fashion season (and the next, and the next). When we want to stand out (no pun intended) we choose Ref. Our founder can attest to chic wears that involve little to no break in time—her personal favorite are the Nylah knee highs. Their shoes are made using materials from Leather Working Group gold and silver audited tanneries, and made in a fair wage environment. We particularly love that this brand is climate-neutral with an aim to be climate positive by 2025.
Best For | Minimalist shoes
Price Range | $70–$165
The minimalistic design of ABLE’s shoes makes these a classic addition to your sustainable wardrobe. The color palette for this footwear collection features elegant basics in neutral tones, and the seasonal arrivals are bright and cheerful! Our editor has had a pair of zip-up boots from ABLE for years, and loves that they offer a 3” heel but don’t sacrifice on support (she’s even dashed through the Chicago airport in them without an issue). If you don’t get the right shoe size the first time, ABLE offers unlimited free returns and exchanges. This certified B Corp is dedicated to creating long-term economic impact by employing women artisans worldwide.
Best For | Street shoes
Price Range | $105–$210
Veja is a leader in eco and ethical production for street shoes—and they recently launched running shoes as well! The brand buys organic and ecologically friendly materials from fair trade family farms in Brazil and the Amazon and partners with a charity that employs marginalized people as a way to reintegrate into society. During production, Veja prioritizes low to zero waste practices, low energy production, and recyclable packaging. Our editor wears her Vejas constantly (not as much as Allbirds, but close!) because they’re walkable and pair nicely with dresses, jeans, and shorts. These shoes are great for wider feet, and we’re big fans of the retro suede styles.
Best For | Boots & clogs
Price Range | $180–$445
The quintessential Parisian brand Sézane designs stunning shoes for the modern woman. The European label has forged strong partnerships in many countries, always focusing on where and how its shoes are made. The team advocates for safe working conditions for their artisans and uses more than 75 percent eco-friendly materials in production. Can you say conscious and chic?
Best For | Artisan leather shoes
Price Range | $90–$250
Nisolo collaborates with local artisans in Peru to create its stunning shoe collection. The brand boasts a gorgeous line of adult-sized sneakers, heeled boots, mules, and sandals. We love these beautifully designed, well-made shoes that offer 100 percent living wages and zero net carbon. As most shoes in Nisolo’s collection are leather, they will require a bit of break-in. We recommend wearing them around the house at first and with a pair of socks before spending a full day in the mules or clogs. Read our full Nisolo shoe review here.
Best For | High-tops
Price Range | $79–$149
For some of the most sustainable and stylish sneakers on the planet, Cariuma is it. The brand’s materials include GOTS-certified organic cotton, bamboo, recycled PET, and Leather Working Group-certified leather and suede, dyed with low-impact inks. Hands down the shoe of choice if you’re team sneakers-without-socks. We love that Cariuma sneakers are comfy and breathable (so no funky feet in our experience); they’re well worth the purchase especially if you look out for sales.
8. Thousand Fell
Best For | Sneakers
Price Range | $125—$135 (+$20 recycling deposit)
Designed in New York and made in a family-owned factory in Brazil, Thousand Fell sneakers are made to last and built to recycle. No, really. These shoes are crafted from recycled plastic and rubber as well as natural materials like palm leaf fibers and coconut husks. As 97 percent of shoes end up in landfills, the team takes your sneakers back once you’re ready, refurbishes them, and gives them to someone in need—and gives you a $20 credit.
Best For | Comfort flats & loafers
Price Range | $79–$259
Rothy’s crafts the sustainable shoes of the future: Each pair of shoes is shaped by 3D knitting using ocean-bound plastic. (They’ve diverted 100 tons of single-use plastic so far.) There’s far less waste involved, too; all you’re left with are shoes that fit like a glove. Often touted as one of the most comfortable shoes out there, they’re designed to last and are fully machine washable. It’s the perfect eco-investment for adults and children alike.
10. Zou Xou
Best For | Made-to-order shoes
Price Range | $149–$325
Zou Xou is the brand for those who love comfort and style. Inspired by classics like pumps, slip-ons, and mules, Zou Xou works with Argentinian artisans to make timeless shoes in small batches, using traditional techniques and quality materials. Don’t see your shoe size? You can invest in a made-to-order option! This way, Zou Xou cuts down on waste, and you’re left with shoes that will last.
11. The Root Collective
Best For | Flats (customization available)
Price Range | $128–$298
In an often mass-produced world, The Root Collective reminds us to think about who and where our shoes are made. Working with shoemakers and textile-weavers in Guatemala, the brand believes ethically made shoes can change lives and start a culture of kindness. Plus, you can meet the makers who’ve consented to sharing their stories! We’re big fans of these fun, colorful footwear options. The easy zip-up boots are great for pulling your look together with minimal effort—just watch out if you’re wearing them in slippery conditions since they don’t have tread.
Best For: Platform boots, sandals, and loafers
For made-to-order Spanish-made designs, ALOHAS is our number one stop. With their signature styles like their patchwork and color block knee-high boots, extra tall platform lug loafers and even some vegan options, you can be sure that these gorgeous shoes will help you stand out (pun intended) in a crowd. We adore our Alohas platform sandals and wear them with just about everything in warmer months. Best of all? Zero break-in time.
13. Thesus Outdoors
Best For | Waterproof rainboots
Price Range | $138–$198
Thesus Outdoors makes wearable, fashionable footwear—with one of the most thoughtful supply chains around. Small scale producers and artisans craft its popular waterproof rainboots using 100 percent natural and certified fair trade rubber. While we don’t recommend these boots for longer treks in the wilderness, The Weekender is the perfect companion for shorter hikes and time spent outdoors!
Best For: Classic low top and bootie designs
For a luxurious take on your favorite low top sneakers, go for Koio. Carefully designed and made to last, these shoes are handcrafted in Italy from LWG certified leather, and ethically sourced and recycled rubber. Rave reviews show these sneakers are as comfy as they are gorgeous– ready-to-wear with no need to break in! We also love the timeless Chelsea and combat-style boots, all ethically made with sustainable materials.
15. Native Shoes
Best For | Vegan sneakers for kids & adults
Price Range | $32–$110
Native makes affordable shoes that the whole family will love! With styles for adults and kids, these vegan shoes are made using extraordinary cruelty-free materials—the Bloom material is especially cool since it’s made from repurposed algae that’s been necessarily cleaned up from bodies of water. We love Native for its affordability and stretchiness—the shoes are super light and easy to wash if you’re spending time in sand or mud. (Although, for the boots, you’ll want to make sure to break them in a little slowly before wearing them on a long hike!) Whether you’re looking for insulated hiking boots for men, or teeny tiny summer sandals for the little ones (they make fits for 12-24 month-olds!), Native has the footwear you need to tread lightly.
Featured image via Veja